WHITMAN — Officials are working to address how the town will approach businesses seeking to locate round-the-clock operations in Whitman.
Town Administrator Frank Lynam recently received a request from 7-Eleven, which has taken over the Tedeschi’s convenience store locations, to operate the stores on a “24/7” basis in Whitman.
Right now, there is no authority to say yes or no, he told selectmen on Tuesday, May 24, so the business will be told to proceed on “the basis of operating standards.”
Whitman’s store is at the corner of Park Avenue and Washington Street.
“We have not regulated the hours of business, except by license,” he said. “In the case of Tedeschi’s, or 7-Eleven, there will be no license issued by the Board of Selectmen because they are not a common victualler.”
Lynam explained that, in the past, when businesses were opening and required site approval, and the process included an assessment of impact on residential areas, the Board of Appeals would set business hours that would have the least disturbing impact on abutters.
As the location in question in this case is within a business district, Lynam said he sought advice from town counsel, which is “lacking in a firm reason to limit the hours.”
To do so would be considered restraint of trade, Lynam reported. He said he will be receiving a written opinion on the issue, at which time he plans to consult with other communities on their licensing process and come back to the board with a recommendation on whether the town needs to establish an ordinance or by-law providing oversight to hours of operation.
“Lacking any other type of authority, we really can’t regulate those hours,” he said. “By virtue of opening, they have the right to operate a convenience store 24 hours a day.”
The Board of Appeals had “exceeded its authority” in denying another business the right to operate 24/7, Lynam said the business opted to locate in another town. While he is working to identify “when, how and where” such a business may operate to avoid future conflicts.
Selectman Dan Salvucci asked if, should the store sell alcohol, would they be required to cover those products during certain hours and lock it up. He also asked about the number of employees the store plans to have on duty each shift for safety concerns.
“They don’t have a license to sell alcohol and they would have to come to us for that, and that would give us the authority to regulate the business,” Lynam said. “I don’t think it’s our authority to tell them how many people to have working in the store.”
In other business, Selectman Brian Bezanson said that, while 20-percent turnout was very good for a town election, the fact that only one in five voters turned out for an important override vote was “troubling,” and asked if more could be done to increase turnout.
Chairman Carl Kowalski said Lynam had asked him if a town-wide emergency message should be sent out as an election day reminder, but he didn’t think it necessary at the time.
He did agree, however, that something needs to be done to unify the town and motivate people to vote.